An innovative boat owner turns his frustrations over a gas-powered motor into a whole new concept in boating. By Chris Caswell
When he grew weary of trying to keep the engine running in his beat-up motorboat, then college student Marshall Â“DuffyÂ” Duffield had no idea that he was about to create a mini industry. Replacing his boatÂ’s gas engine with an electric motor from a golf cart, Duffield discovered it was perfect for cruising the harbor: quiet, reliable, and eco-friendly. The electric motor uses no gas nor does it emit fumes, and a recharge costs merely pennies. In 1970, the Duffy Electric Boat Co. was launched to build Â“DuffysÂ” ranging in size today from 14 feet to 22 feet.
Unquestionably the leader in the electric boat field, there are more than 2,000 Duffys on Newport Harbor in Southern California alone. A waterfront restaurant even has a Â“Duffy Seafood PlatterÂ” for boaters who pull up to their dock to pick up munchies for harbor cruising with friends. A company renting Duffys has weekend waiting lists, a local resort provides them for guests, and other Duffys can be found nationwide. They are popular on lakes where only electric power is allowed, and they meander insouciantly amongst the megayachts in Ft. Lauderdale.
With their canvas sun canopies (sometimes fringed) and their comfortable seating, Duffys are undeniably cute. Roll-down windows provide protection from wind or rain, and optional heaters make them all-season. The essence of a Duffy is comfort, from the deeply cushioned seating to the mini-galleys that can be fitted with refrigerators and blenders.
Duffield, who had planned to design racing sailboats, builds as many as 1,000 a year and is clearly delighted at his business, although he admits, Â“I never thought IÂ’d be known for the worldÂ’s slowest boat!Â” It might be slow at six miles per hour, but the average Duffy can cruise for more than seven hours on a single charge. TheyÂ’re so easy to operate that even kids can get the hang of an electric boat quickly.
As with any successful business, Duffy has its competitors, including Lear Boats, started by Shanda Lear-Baylor, the daughter of Lear bizjet designer Bill Lear. The Lear 204 is a 20-footer with a unique retractable top that becomes a secure cover for the interior when lowered. A private compartment on the 204 holds a portable toilet.
Whether they like the idea of harbor cruising in silence or the eco-friendliness, itÂ’s no surprise that waterfront homeowners have embraced electric boating. duffyboats.com, 949-645-6811; learbaylor.com, 949-722-7757.
The Get TailGator Blender
A blender is de rigueur for any bar, but the TailGator takes the blender far afield becauseÂ—ta-daÂ—itÂ’s gas-powered. Not only does it have the power to turn a pitcher full of hard ice into a yummy slushy drink in seconds, but itÂ’s also the life of any party. Take it to the dock, to a picnic, or even to the tailgate parties for which itÂ’s named. Yank the starter cord and the raaap-raaap of the two-stroke motor (from a weed-eater) will bring a crowd. With its 2.5-horsepower engine and stainless-steel blades, the manufacturers claim the TailGator gets 6,500 mpg (margaritas per gallon!) so itÂ’s fuel efficient, too.Â About $290. tailgatorzone.com, 888-874-7677.